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This article is about autonomous exploration vehicles. For crewed vehicles on Mars, see Crewed Mars rover.
Artist's conception of the Curiosity rover vaporizing rock on Mars. The rover landed on Mars in August 2012.
A Mars rover is a motor vehicle that travels across the surface of the planet Mars upon arrival. Rovers have several advantages over stationary landers: they examine more territory, they can be directed to interesting features, they can place themselves in sunny positions to weather winter months, and they can advance the knowledge of how to perform very remote robotic vehicle control.
Mars 2, Mars 3 were physically tethered probes; Sojourner was dependent on the Mars Pathfinder base station for communication with Earth; MER-A & B and Curiosity were on their own. As of August 2019, Curiosity is still active, while Spirit, Opportunity, and Sojourner completed their missions before losing contact.
Mars 2, Prop-M rover, 1971, Mars 2 landing failed taking Prop-M with it. The Mars 2 and 3 spacecraft from the Soviet Union had identical 4.5 kg Prop-M rovers. They were to move on skis while connected to the landers with cables.
Mars 3, Prop-M rover, 1971, lost when Mars 3 lander stopped communicating about 20 seconds after landing.
Spirit (MER-A), Mars Exploration Rover, launched on June 10, 2003, and landed on January 4, 2004. Nearly 6 years after the original mission limit, Spirit had covered a total distance of 7.73 km (4.80 mi) but its wheels became trapped in sand. The last communication received from the rover was on March 22, 2010, and NASA ceased attempts to re-establish communication on May 25, 2011.
Opportunity (MER-B), Mars Exploration Rover, launched on July 7, 2003 and landed on January 25, 2004. Opportunity surpassed the previous records for longevity at 5,352 sols (5498 Earth days from landing to mission end; 15 Earth years or 8 Martian years) and covered a total distance of 40.25 km (25.01 mi). The rover sent its last status on 10 June 2018 when a global 2018 Mars dust storm blocked the sunlight needed to recharge its batteries. After hundreds of attempts to reactivate the rover, NASA declared the mission complete on February 13, 2019.
Mars Tumbleweed Rover, a spherical wind-propelled rover.
In 2018, a kind of cushion-air rover was proposed, which in contrast with traditional hovercrafts does not use blowers to pressurize the gas in the chamber but rather uses stored pressurized CO2 obtained from a freezing process which does not require mechanical compression.
Examples of instruments
Curiosity's (MSL) rover "hand" featuring a suite of instruments on a rotating "wrist", "Mount Sharp" is in the background (September 8, 2012).
Opportunity's first self-portrait including the camera mast on Mars (February 14−20, 2018 / sols 4998−5004) It was taken with its microscopic imager instrument
Examples of instruments onboard landed rovers include:
NASA distinguishes between "mission" objectives and "science" objectives. Mission objectives are related to progress in space technology and development processes. Science objectives are met by the instruments during their mission in space.
The science instruments are chosen and designed based on the science objectives and goals. The primary goal of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers was to investigate "the history of water on Mars".
^Arias, Francisco. J (2018). CO2-Cushion Vehicle for Mars. An Alternative Locomotion for Exploration Rovers. 54nd AIAA/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference Cincinnati, OH, Propulsion and Energy, (AIAA 2018–4492). doi:10.2514/6.2018-4492. ISBN978-1-62410-570-8.
^Arias, Francisco. J (2018). A Method of Attaining High Pressurized Vessels in Space, the Moon and With Particular Reference to Mars. 54nd AIAA/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference Cincinnati, OH, Propulsion and Energy, (AIAA 2018–4688). doi:10.2514/6.2018-4488. ISBN978-1-62410-571-5.